For years they'd been a team of five, their individual skills and abilities combining to enable them to deal effectively with any situation they’d been faced with, but now they were only three. Two of their closest friends, two vital and irreplaceable members of their own little mismatched family, had been brutally ripped from them. Tosh and Owen were gone, and they were never coming back.
It hit the three remaining members of Torchwood like a solid body blow, a punch to the gut that took their breath away, robbing them of strength, courage, and hope. The pain of their losses threatened to swamp them. It weighed on their hearts like lead, dragging them down into the depths of despair so that all they could feel was grief. No, not just grief; there was guilt too, for not being there to watch their friends’ backs, for allowing someone else to put their life on the line to deal with a problem that should have been their own responsibility, for letting go of a young boy’s hand and bringing that same boy’s bitter hatred and twisted revenge down on others, just because they were his friends. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t fair. None of it was.
Tosh and Owen should still be alive. They hadn’t deserved their fates, but they’d sacrificed themselves without hesitation, given their own lives doing everything they could to save others, working together even while they were dying, and because of them, a nuclear disaster had been averted. Thanks to their selfless courage and determination, countless thousands of lives had been saved, and the city they’d called home hadn’t been reduced to a radiation-soaked source of deadly contamination. They’d died heroes, and that was the way they would have chosen to go out if they’d been given the choice; Tosh had said as much in her final message, said she hoped she’d done good, and she had. So had Owen, and though it wasn’t much consolation for the three who were left alive, it gave them something to hold on to.
“The end is where we start from,” Jack told them, as he hugged Ianto and Gwen to him, desperately needing that tangible reassurance that he hadn’t lost them too. “We’re all that’s left, and it’s going to be hard, so hard, but we have to keep going, we have to rebuild, because otherwise Tosh and Owen…”
He trailed off, for a moment too choked up to continue, but then he pulled himself together, drew a steadying breath and spoke with firm resolve.
“Otherwise, their sacrifice was for nothing, their lives wasted, and they’d never forgive us for that. They gave their lives so that we would still have a city and its inhabitants to protect. It’s a mess out there, the bombs have left behind a lot of death and destruction, and we’re not the only people who’ve lost loved ones. Our city needs us; giving up isn’t an option. It’s going to be a lot more difficult with just the three of us, more work and longer hours, but we can do it, because that’s what our friends would want us to do.”
Ianto nodded, straightening his shoulders, drawing on his usual brisk efficiency, though his eyes were red, and his voice cracked when he spoke.
“Jack’s right; we don’t have the luxury of wallowing in self pity. There are things that need to be done; the whole of Cardiff’s in chaos, and the emergency services are going to need all the help they can get. There’s a lot we can do.”
“Rhys…” Gwen whispered, huddled against Jack’s side as if he was the only thing keeping her from collapsing.
Jack gave her another squeeze and kissed the top of her head, offering what little comfort he could. “Go home, Gwen. Talk to your husband, get a couple hours’ sleep if you can, but then we need you back here, and Rhys too. He’s good at logistics; he can help. It’s going to be all hands on deck from here on in.”
“Okay.” Gwen wiped awkwardly at her eyes with the back of her hand and gave a loud sniff. “What about you two?”
“We’ll be fine,” Ianto assured her with a faint, wintry smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “There’s plenty to keep us busy while you’re gone. Just be careful out there; we can’t afford to lose you too, and there are probably still Weevils about. They’re going to be skittish.”
“I’ll be okay, I won’t take any chances. I promise.” Reaching up, she hugged Ianto, kissing him on the cheek, then did the same to Jack. “I’ll be back in a few hours, just… Don’t forget to rest yourselves; you both need it too.”
“I’ll make sure Ianto gets some sleep,” Jack told her. “I don’t need it, not the way you two do. I can go without for days, if necessary.”
“Jack…” Gwen’s tone was pained, her eyes pleading with him.
“Don’t worry, Gwen, he’ll rest if I have to lie on top of him,” Ianto promised her.
“Ooh, yes please.”
Jack’s flirty grin was forced, lacking its usual light-hearted exuberance, but it still made Gwen laugh a little through fresh tears.
“Alright. I’ll see you both later.” She turned away, started for the door, made it halfway then turned back, reluctant to leave without some kind of assurance. “We will get through this, won’t we?”
“Yes, we will,” Jack replied, drawing himself up and squaring his shoulders, trying to look more confident than he felt. “I won’t lie to you, it’s not going to be easy, but we’ll get through this, we’ll pick up the pieces and carry on. That’s what we do.”
“Right.” Gwen gave a brief nod. “Goodnight, boys.”
“Goodnight.” Jack and Ianto spoke in unison, and Jack stepped closer to his lover, wrapping his arm around Ianto’s shoulders, the two of them drawing strength and comfort from each other’s presence as they watched Gwen leave.
As soon as she was out of sight, Ianto leant against Jack and closed his eyes, unbearably tired, the guilt weighing him down the way it had after Lisa. “It should’ve been me at the nuclear plant, not Owen. I shouldn’t have let him go in my place.”
“Don’t talk like that!” Jack’s tone was sharper than he’d intended, it was just that losing Ianto didn’t bear thinking about. “I’m glad it wasn’t,” he added, more softly. “I need you. I don’t think I could get through this without you.”
“You’ve got me,” Ianto replied, sliding his arm around Jack’s waist, his voice slightly muffled against the front of his lover’s coat. “For as long as you want me.”
Jack’s arm tightened around Ianto as his shoulders sagged with relief; he’d been half afraid Ianto might want to leave, or at least break up with him. “That’s good, because I’m going to want you for a very long time.”